Thursday, February 16, 2017

Suspicious activity.

Yikes!  Bud swell has been spotted in the Orange Muscat (OM) vines. Today, I happened to glance at the OM when I was passing them by, gathering my things in order to start pruning the Syrah, and wasn't sure that what I was seeing was actually the expanding OM buds rupturing their scales.  Suspicious, that something was afoot, I went and had a look-see.  Yup, on closer inspection I discovered that the OM are indeed enthused and ready to get on with vintage 2017. Early pruning will do that, sigh.
In reality, the OM are only about a week earlier than last year, and they are even a little behind schedule when compared with the 2015 vintage. Bud swell just seems early to me this year.  It is probably because, due to the rain, I feel that I am a little behind.  Prune on, Vinogirl!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy St. Valentine's Day: 2017.

Vinodog 2 is a very happy little dog: she greets every new day with a vigorous way of her tail. This morning was no different, except that me and my pooch had a quick smooch before our daily routine commenced.
I beseech you all to kiss a dog today.  (A cat, a hamster, perhaps a chicken...whichever is closest at hand.  You'll be glad you did.)
Happy St. Valentine's Day to you all!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Mushroom crowd.

It stopped raining last night.  Today the clouds parted, the sun came out and I finished pruning the Pinot grigio vines, yay!  I even tied the canes down on one row, double yay!  It was a rather squishy affair, as I was within inches of Vinoland's overflowing creek, but I kept both of my wellies on my feet by moving as little as was humanly possible.
One consequence of all the rain, (besides all the mud, flooding, a dirty Vinodog and boredom), is that some interesting fungi have popped up around Vinoland.
The poison pie mushroom (Hebeloma crustuliniforme) is, as the name suggests, moderately toxic to humans and usually appears in the autumn. But due to the fact that winters in California are so mild, this winter the poison pie mushrooms are enjoying an extended run in Vinoland.
There is always something to distract me, sigh.

Friday, February 03, 2017

True Wine Lover 18.

Rain stopped pruning.  Sigh.  So retreat indoors I did and amused myself with a bit of light reading.
George Edward Bateman Saintsbury, was an English writer and scholar. But he was also somewhat of  a wine expert who possessed a rather extensive wine collection.  Published in 1920, Notes on a Cellar-Book is really a book about an inventory; a detailed list, written in a simple exercise book, of the contents of Saintsbury's wine cellar - and the memories of all the wines, beers and spirits Saintsbury had consumed over his lifetime.  And he had consumed a lot.  Surely Saintsbury was a devoted, true lover of wine to go to all that bother of inventorying his cellar.  And his mind.
It's an interesting read, very English, very English (he rails against Prohibition in the U.S.) and indispensable to anybody who wants to know how to keep whiskey and brandy in barrels in one's own cellar. (I mean, why wouldn't one?) George Saintsbury, whilst waxing lyrical about the wonder that is wine, once remarked, "...vintage wine, one of the most perfect of nature's products".  Hear, hear!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Happy Groundhog Day.

This morning in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (in actuality, a spot called Gobbler's Knob...titter, titter), Punxsutawney Phil, the unfortunate, grudging-groundhog who is unceremoniously dragged out of his ersatz tree stump every year, saw his shadow.  I was hoping that Phil's prognostication of six more weeks of winter would perhaps be for the east coast only. But alas, the rain has returned here on the west coast.
Nevertheless, I donned my rain jacket and ventured out into the vineyard to continue with my pruning.  Surprisingly, I got quite a bit of done before the rain just got too heavy for me to carry on.  It is forecast to rain for the next 10 days, or so.  Great.  But at least it is not cold.  I am predicting that I will be experiencing a fortnight of rather soggy vineyard work.  Lovely.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pinot prunio.

Today was my first day off in almost two weeks that it hasn't rained. Thank goodness!  So I was able to get out into the vineyard to begin pruning the Pinot grigio vines.  Yay!
It is still rather wet in the vineyard, so I was very careful about where I trod: it always amazes me how quickly a small, soggy gopher mound can turn into a fully fledged quagmire.  Vinoland's creek has almost retreated back behind its banks, but it is impossible to walk anywhere near the flood plain without having at least one wellie ripped off.  Hate when that happens.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cult vineyard?

So I have been giving some thought to the whole cult wine phenomenon - just a little, not a lot. (The subject was recently raised, in the comments section of my 'Pluviophile...' post, by New Hampshire Wine-man.)
I have to say, I am more than a little sceptical when it comes to the whole cult wine thing, (I have been accused of being a doubting Thomas in the past).  But I cannot ignore the fact that some people might, and do, pay an ungodly amount of money for a wine that merely has the perception of being extra special, for one reason or another.  To me the whole cult wine faction, amongst the wine buying public, is akin to those folks who have to wear the latest designer labels.
Just last week, at a Napa Valley Vintners event, I was able to taste a Herb Lamb Vineyards, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley AVA).  The vineyard this wine is produced from, the Herb Lamb Vineyard, is perhaps better known in cult wine-circles as the vineyard from which one of the first cult wines in the Napa Valley hailed; the Colgin Cellars, 'Herb Lamb Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Colgin was a wine with all the hallmarks of cult status; small production, vineyard designation, high critical acclaim and a lofty price point.  But what actually made it a cult wine in the first place?  The proprietor?  The winemaker? The vineyard? The farming practices?  Hmm.
Well, the commonality here, with Colgin and the wine I tasted, is, of course, the Herb Lamb Vineyard itself.  The seven acre vineyard is located in the hills just below the Howell Mountain AVA at some 800 feet in elevation. The soil is rocky and the exposure is northeastern.  Is great terroir, a terroir that produces high quality grapes, the sole factor in determining that a resulting wine will be of cult status?  I think not.  To me it is arbitrary and faddish.  There, I said it.
And how was the Herb Lamb Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon?  Smooth, sufficient fruit up front,  soft tannins, a little lacking in the acid department, a brusque finish, just okay.  But then, I'm not really a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon type-Vinogirl.  No, I happen to be in the possession of taste buds of the doubting Thomas-persuasion.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pruning 2017.

It may be a Friday the 13th, but I was lucky enough to be able to get out into the vineyard for a little while today.  The weather was very pleasant this afternoon which meant I was able to start pruning.  It was cold, sunny and, most importantly, dry.
As usual, I started to prune the Orange Muscat vines first.  It is the earliest date on which I have ever started to prune, but I am anticipating more rain in the coming weeks, so I thought I'd get an early start.  I love pruning, so I'm not complaining.  Prune on!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pluviophile, I am not.

I am not ombrophobic, nor am I pluviophobic.  No, I am not afraid of rain, I just dislike rain intensely.  So I have decided that I am most definitely a heliophile.  What is there not to love about going outside, anytime time one wishes, and staying dry?  Not much, for me anyway.
My drive home from TWWIAGE on Tuesday evening was an interesting one - not fun, but certainly an experience.  Nearly every other winery in the Napa Valley had closed early due to a major rain storm so, consequently, traffic was light, but it was dark and very, very wet. Come daylight, and on my commute to work yesterday morning, I could see that most valley-floor vineyards were under water.  This photograph, of a rather waterlogged Groth Vineyards & Winery, was not an uncommon sight as I made my way across the valley.
Napa is officially at 171% of normal rainfall for the season: I think we've had enough.  I know I certainly have.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Morning in the Winery: 4.

This morning, Vinomaker and I ventured upvalley to partake in the annual event, Morning in the Winery (MITW).  This year there were five wineries to choose from; Humanitas Wines, Bouchaine Vineyards, Odette Estate Winery, Silver Oak Cellars and Beringer Vineyards.  We would normally pick the winery closest to home to visit, but a shortish drive up to Odette Estate Winery seemed in order.  (I have been wanting to visit this particular winery for a while.)   This may have been only the fourth time MITW has been held, but the event seems to be a victim of its own success.  MITW is a good event and I did enjoy myself, but perhaps not as much as at previously held events.
Despite some of the heaviest rain of the season so far, some 300 plus people converged upon Odette, a smallish winery (which was formerly Steltzner Winery), all of whom were milling about and trying to avoid the heavy rain.  A general air of disorganization hung over the event, much like the low-lying rain clouds above the Stag's Leap District AVA, but it didn't stop me from tasting through the Odette wines.  And the wines were; a 2014 Reserve (titter, titter) Chardonnay (oaky, sigh), $66; a 2014 Adaptation Cabernet Sauvignon (tasted unfinished), $54; a 2013 Odette Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (pleasant, nice lavender vibe), $126; and a 2014 Adaptation Petite Sirah (soft, fruit-forward, with an appealing acidity that balanced the chalky-tannin character that poorly made Petite Sirah can exhibit in spades, best of the bunch), $44.
As an aside, when Odette first opened to the public, the winery's By Appointment Only (BAO) sign was conspicuously located on the first slat below the Odette Estate name.  After several months, perhaps, (I drive by this winery on my way to TWWIAGE) the BAO sign had migrated to a lower slat and was, consequently, obscured by the landscaping.  Then, just recently, the sign was newly relocated to its current, and once again visible, position. Curious, I thought then.  Now I know why.
Without diving head first into the intricacies of Napa County's Winery Definition Ordinance, I think it is safe to say that Odette rethought the positioning of their BAO sign because they had signed up to particpate in a high profile event, i.e., MITW.  Whilst an obscured BAO sign will increase the number of walk-in tasters, thus maximizing potential wine sales, it will also maximize how much trouble a winery can get into with Napa County, (dependent upon how egregiously a winery flouts the limitations set forth in its use permit.)  In 2013, Caymus agreed to pay a $1,000,000 fine to the county for violating the terms defined in its particular use permit.  It's alcohol and it's regulated.
I shall keep my eye on Odette's peripatetic signage.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Fox news.

It's a slow, January news day in Vinoland.  Even this grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), that Vinodog 2 had stuck up a tree for a couple of hours until it went dark, looks bored.  Mr. Fox certainly wasn't bothered by the rather annoying, little black and white dog creating a scene some 13 feet below him.  Although I was a bit disturbed by the commotion as I tried to do complete some outdoor chores.  It's a good thing our neighbours aren't very close.
And as regards to Mr. Fox, he made a very strong statement showing up like he did in the middle of the afternoon.  It is almost like he knows I have just found a chicken coop that I like and may purchase.  Hmm.
Like I said, slow news day.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Party animal.

My traditional New Year's Day walk through the vineyard this morning was a little disappointing. I had wanted it to be crisp and white with frost (like it has been every morning since Christmas Eve), but instead, because the weather has warmed up a bit, everything was moist and green. Nonetheless, I got to have a good look around and assess the job close at hand - pruning.  Vinodog 2 accompanied me, but I insisted she leave her glad rags in the house.
A happy 2017 to all!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Done and dusted.

This is the bubbly line up for Vinoland's New Year festivities.  Can't wait.
2016 was a funny old year, neither good nor bad - which is a good thing I suppose.  But time marches on and here we all are on the eve of a new year.  I, for one, am ready to embrace the next 365 days.
I hope 2017 is prosperous, safe, healthy and blessed for all those that I hold near and dear. And for some other, random folks as well. Cheers!
Have a very Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Port out, starboard home.

Two, sort of, related things happened yesterday; my kind neighbour popped over and gifted Vinomaker and I a bottle of Heitz Cellars, Ink Grade Port (Napa Valley AVA), and I read a story about Porto, Portugal, in the Napa Valley Register.  (Oh, and a third unrelated thing, it was also my Vinomum's birthday.)
I have never tried this particular 'port' before, but my neighbour assures me it is delightful.  I can't wait to try it - tomorrow night, perhaps. The wine is a blend of eight, classic Portuguese grape varieties; Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Souzão, Tinta Bairrada, Tinta Madeira, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cão and Bastardo.  (I think I am going to be particularly enamored by that last grape.  Titter, titter.)
The article in my local newspaper wasn't a typical fluff-piece written with the purpose of luring tourists to Porto.  No, instead the front page story was a report about a junket that three Napa County Supervisors recently took to the aforementioned city.  At a cost of $17,500 to the taxpayers of Napa County, the three supervisors, whilst in Porto, attended a conference called 'Great Wine Capitals' with the intention that they'd experience "a wonderful learning see what the rivals are doing". One Supervisor, Keith Caldwell, seems to not really have enjoyed the trip at all, or at least what he learned there.
In the article, Supervisor Caldwell bemoans the fact that he did not see more of the problems that Porto faces.  "They really went out of their way for us not to see some of the negatives," Caldwell complained.  What? The audacity!  God forbid the officials of that particular municipality, some 5,500 miles away from the Napa Valley, wanting to make a good impression on their visitors.
Caldwell continued, "What I think we could do is have an international dialogue about, 'What are you doing, Porto, to address homelessness?'" Hang on a minute, I have a suggestion.  Er, maybe the Napa County Supervisors could start by donating that $17,500 to a local homeless charity.  But no, it's other people's money.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Christmas: 2016.

I woke up to another frosty morning in Vinoland, it meant everywhere was white and very Christmassy.  Not as white and Christmassy as the morning my sister, La Serenissima, woke up to in Utah though: my brother-in-law is now busy shoveling 18 inches of 'White Christmas' personified.
Enjoy food, family, friends and the spirit of the season.  Oh, and wine.
Happy Christmas to all!